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Will Flyers deal Andrew MacDonald, buy out Matt Read?

MacDonald was plagued by turnovers last season, but he was one of the team’s steadier defensemen.

The Flyers are expected to use an ultra-young defense this season, one that might include Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov, Sam Morin and Robert Hagg.

Combined, they have three seasons of NHL experience.

That makes Radko Gudas and Andrew MacDonald the veterans on the back end.

That is, if MacDonald, who will be 31 when the season starts, remains with the team.

MacDonald was plagued by turnovers last season, but he was one of the team's steadier defensemen. He was second on the Flyers in blocked shots (151) and average time on ice (20 minutes, 6 seconds per game) and tied for second among everyday defensemen in plus-minus (minus-5).

The eight-year veteran also served as a mentor to his rookie partner, Provorov, who blossomed into the Flyers' top defenseman.

But MacDonald's contract - he still has three years remaining with an annual cap hit of $5 million - could make him expendable if general manager Ron Hextall feels he has enough experience on the blue line.

As next Wednesday's NHL expansion draft approaches, Vegas general manager George McPhee has been working the phones. McPhee is getting calls from general managers who want to deal veterans with huge contracts, attempting to gain cap relief before free agency starts on July 1.

"We have a lot of teams offering us big contracts," McPhee said at the recent NHL scouting combine in Buffalo. "We'll take a few of those for the right price."

McPhee made it clear he wants draft picks either for this year or in the future.

The Flyers have 11 picks in this month's seven-round draft, including two in the third round and three in the fourth.

That makes MacDonald an intriguing player. McPhee could acquire him in a trade or agree to take him in the expansion draft, provided the Flyers sweetened the pot with a draft pick or two.

If the Flyers didn't have to eat any of MacDonald's contract, that would free them of $5 million in cap space and perhaps make them a player for someone like free-agent winger T.J. Oshie, who scored 33 goals for Washington last season. Oshie played for Flyers coach Dave Hakstol at North Dakota.

McPhee wouldn't reveal which GMs have contacted him, but he said there have been lots of discussions. "The guys have been forthright about what they'd like to do and who they'd like to protect," McPhee said. "We're trying to find ways to accommodate each other."

The Flyers, assuming they use the format in which they can protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie in the expansion draft, will undoubtedly protect Gostisbehere and Gudas. The third protected defenseman will probably be Brandon Manning because of MacDonald's hefty contract.

If MacDonald remains with the Flyers, their defense may look like this: Provorov and MacDonald, Gudas and Hagg, and Gostisbehere and Morin. Manning and Travis Sanheim will also battle for spots in training camp. Phil Myers, a touted defenseman who was shrewdly signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015, appears a year away from being NHL-ready.

By the way, Craig Button, the former Calgary general manager who is now a draft and prospects analyst at TSN in Canada, ranks Sanheim, who may need a little more seasoning with the Phantoms, as the organization's best young defensemen currently not on the Flyers.

Buying out Read?

While buying out the rest of MacDonald's contract is unrealistic - it would put him on the books for six years, twice the length of his remaining contract - the Flyers might go that route with 31-year-old winger Matt Read.

The first buyout period starts Thursday.

Read has one year left on his contract. To get rid of a huge portion of his $3.625-million cap hit, the Flyers would absorb cap hits of about $1.3 million this season and $1.2 million in 2018-19.

After three strong seasons to start his career, Read has regressed. He has scored eight, 11, and 10 goals, respectively, in the last three years.